Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Crafty tinkers

Next Tuesday, Wetherspoon’s will be opening their first pub in the Republic of Ireland, the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock, County Dublin. They have now released the initial food and drink menus, including prices. Bear in mind that everything is priced in Euros, but even making allowance for that the prices are considerably higher than those charged on this side of the border. The current £-€ exchange rate is about 1.25, which makes the €10.95 gourmet burger equate to £8.76 – but in my local Spoons it’s only £6.99.

Apart from declaring the use of Irish ingredients (although not Irish chicken), the food menu is fairly similar to what you would see over here. On the drinks side, much of the media attention has been devoted to the fact that Spoons are not offering Guinness as they have been unable to agree an acceptable price point with Diageo.

However, a striking aspect is the strong presence of “craft keg” beers, including Dogfish Head DNA, Franciscan Well Rebel Red, Shipyard American Pale Ale and Tom Crean’s Irish Lager. It has been pointed out to me that these are all from offshoots of major breweries rather than small independents, but they are definitely craft-themed rather than mainstream in the sense of John Smith’s Extra Smooth. In the UK, the equivalent products would be on cask.

This is understandable, given the lack of a recent cask-drinking tradition in Ireland, but it is a definite shift in the balance of the beer range from what we see here. Will these beers become the preferred choice of the more adventurous Irish beer drinker?

There are also three cask beers, at the cheapest pint prices on the list (€3.75=£3.00), plus the promise of further varying guest ales from Irish brewers. If Wetherspoon’s are to make a success of cask in Ireland, maintaining quality will be absolutely crucial – something where they often fall down on this side of the Irish Sea.

It will be interesting to see how the Spoons experiment in Ireland goes. It certainly has great potential to shake up that country’s often complacent and unenterprising pub trade. My understanding is that it’s common to be expected to pay €6 for a pint, so they will be offering some stiff price competition.

20 comments:

  1. Professor Pie-Tin2 July 2014 at 12:26

    Dublin pubs are a different beast altogether from the rest of Ireland - much like London and the UK.

    And Blackrock is an affluent suburb of Dublin.

    What's going to be really interesting is when 'Spoons roll out the complete package - drink and food - across Ireland because that's when I think they're going to shake up the somnolent and at times downright greedy Irish publicans.

    The all-day drinking and eating opportunity is comparatively rare in Ireland and the site they've bagged in my nearest city is a prime shopping location.

    Tim Martin is a canny operator - he pulled out of a planned launch in Ireland some years ago when property prices were still too high - and I think he's pitched the timing and pricing of this latest adventure perfectly.

    You see, it's so expensive here that even expensive to you is cheap to us !

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  2. The only time I've ever visited the Republic was twenty years ago. The thing that really struck me was that it was well-nigh impossible to find the kind of decent, varied lunchtime pub grub that is ubiquitous in Great Britain. I don't know if things have improved since then.

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  3. Professor Pie-Tin2 July 2014 at 12:44

    @Mudgie.
    In cities it has to a certain degree.
    But the rest of the country is much slower to catch on.
    And Pub Grub is simply not a phrase you come across very often.
    Put bluntly the attitude I hear most often is " why would you go to a pub to waste money on food when there's a woman at home who can cook a meal for you. "
    Old-fashioned attitudes are hard to change. I live near a very popular tourist town and there are still pubs that serve food which insist on closing every Monday as they always have done even though it's the height of the season and there are punters wandering around looking for something to eat.
    Often they're the same publicans who look at you like you're from another planet if you ask for the wifi code.
    Commercial madness.

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  4. Its a shame, because Ireland is such a great drinking country in many ways, but they do really screw you on price.

    The beer was expensive, but finding something for the missus to drink was worse, they don't have postmix, so the usual cheap option of a shot and a splash doesn't exist: you'll pay E5 for the shot and another E2 for a tiny soft drink to go with it. Ouch.

    I wonder if spoons will have postmix? That might be as profound a revolution as pushing cask.

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  5. As the Spoons drinks menu says they will have 398ml glasses of Pepsi, Diet, Pepsi and R. Whites Lemonade, I assume these will be "draught". And has a free mixer with every spirit. So yes, basically.

    Can't you educate the missus into drinking that lovely cloudy craft beer stuff?

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  6. In the 90's they inflicted the "oirish" pub on England. We still have some right shabby ones knocking about.

    It's time we got out own back and inflicted the Spoons value pub. Soon all pubs will be spoons and all burgers will come with a beer.

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  7. €2,00 extra for beer with your burger in the Oirish Spoons.

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  8. and for the extra €2 I expect the orange chubby lasses to be oranger and chubbier and even more dirty when they drag you round to the bins to molest you.

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  9. Professor Pie-Tin2 July 2014 at 14:10

    Staying hip with the Brewdog crowd comes at a price too

    www.broadsheet.ie/2013/11/22/would-you-pay-e9-for-a-pint/

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  10. PTP: Cheaper then BrewDog Manchester for most.

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  11. The imminent opening of a “Spoons” in Ireland was touched on, at the EBBC, in Dublin last weekend. There were quite a few, in both the audience, and also amongst some of the Irish Craft Brewers present, who were not quite sure what to expect.

    Fellow blogger, BryanB and I were able to lay to rest the myth about JWD buying beer close to its “sell by date”, and also assured some of the delegates that whilst the company would expect a hefty discount, it would not insist on unsustainable price cuts.

    This was my first visit to both Dublin and Ireland, and from what I saw of the beer scene in the Irish capital, cask has been almost completely over-looked. Pubs and bars have gone straight from offering the “Holy Trinity” of nationally-branded black, red and gold (Stout, Irish Ale and lager), to selling an impressive variety of locally-brewed, Irish Cask Beers. It’s almost as if the “real ale revolution” never happened which, if you look back for a moment, it never actually did in the Irish Republic.

    I saw just three pubs with a token hand-pump, and as no-one seemed to be drinking the stuff, I wasn’t prepared to fork out €6 for a flat, and potentially vinegary pint.

    For an in-depth view of Cask Beer in Ireland, read BryanB’s post on the subject. http://blog.beerviking.net/2014/06/cask-beer-in-ireland.html

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  12. Paul, don't you mean "impressive variety of locally-brewed, Irish KEG Beers."?

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  13. an impressive variety of locally-brewed, Irish Cask Beer

    I guess you meant 'keg'?

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  14. Sorry, Freudian slip there! Yes I did mean "KEG" beers, although the word I was actually going to use was "CRAFT". Many would say they are the same thing, so "craft keg" would have been the most accurate description.

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  15. Professor Pie-Tin2 July 2014 at 22:48

    Interestingly,Guinness have quietly canned the dreadful Arthur's Day whichy had turned into a bit of a PR disaster.
    Far from helping the brand the drunkeness and violence that accompanied this annual event had the dreaded reverse-Stella effect instead.
    Guinness marketing types laughingly described it as " freshening up " the brand's image.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/guinness-scraps-arthur-s-day-for-new-music-promotion-1.1853223

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  16. craft keg is to unweldly and not down with the kids.

    I propose the term "creg"

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  17. CL: I second the term "creg".

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  18. The most interesting thing about Spoons move into Ireland isn't the menu or the prices. It's whether the Irish go for the Spoons model. The cheap McPub. I guess a yes they will.

    Spoons would get nowhere expanding into France, Scandinavia, Holland, Germany. Obviously they think Irish pub culture will go for a Spoons. Maybe Benidorm & Magaluf would go for a Spoons, Spain in general wouldn't.

    Once they have established the supply chain in Ireland, they will set up in every town that has a Macdonalds.

    Paddy O'Semtexes traditional craig pub is in for a rough ride.

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  19. Professor Pie-Tin4 July 2014 at 16:26

    I don't see why not.
    The Irish have gone for just about everything else from the UK - newspapers ( Sun,Mail,Star,Mirror) television ( rugby matches on exclusively Irish language channel TG4 are always shown mute in my local ) shops ( Boots,Debenhams,M&S,Tesco )football clubs ( " Premier League till I die. " )
    Most Irish towns are indistinguishable from the average British high street and Irish culture (music,literature and art) has virtually disappeared from everyday life here.
    I wish it wasn't the case - the homogeonisation of Ireland is sad to see and apart from Gaelic sport which is thriving this country has lost its unique identity within a couple of decades.
    It was highlighted to me a couple of years ago when I witnessed an old feller trying to start a sing-song in a pub only to be hushed because there was an inconsequential,mid-table Premier League match on the box.
    Jaysus, when I first came here I wouldn't open my mouth in certain pubs because of the accent.
    Now I can't remember the last time I was called an English bastard.
    Wahaay !

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  20. Irish struggling to get the idea of Spoons.

    This is telling:

    "...young families and pensioners sat happily among post-work suits, and almost everyone was ordering food. For a Wednesday evening, in what is normally a slightly dead village, the place was packed and, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. Was it that weird curiosity we have about all things British? Maybe it was the rumoured low cost. "

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